An Afghan refugee who fled Kabul on the promise of safe haven in Britain faces being returned to the Taliban after the government admitted hosting him for 19 months in error.
Mohammad Zaker Nasery spent over a year living in a UK-funded hotel in Pakistan, waiting for approval to come to Britain, and even had a UK visa approved. However, he has now been given 14 days' notice to leave the accommodation after being told he does not qualify for the MoD's flagship resettlement scheme.
The father-of-four, who worked as a contractor on a Foreign Office (FCDO) project between 2019 and 2021, faces destitution in Pakistan or deportation back to Afghanistan after officials told him they were cutting support because it had been given “in error” . More than 30 Afghan families, who also live in the hotel, wrote a letter of support calling on the British High Commission to stop his eviction.
It is the latest in a series of revelations about the government's beleaguered resettlement policy in Afghanistan, which is facing mounting legal challenges from abandoned claimants. Labor MP Mary Kelly Foy said it was indicative of the government's “disgraceful failure” to support Afghans who helped British forces.
Juliette Seibold, who worked as a program manager at IPE Global, the company contracted by FCDO in Afghanistan, said the government had “done it.” “They called him to Pakistan, then they called his family to Pakistan. They led him down this path to believe he had a chance and put him up for months in Islamabad at a staggering cost of money. At the end of this whole process they fire him. It's just not fair.”
Mr Nasery had worked as a contractor on an FCDO project to end violence against women and girls in Afghanistan between 2019 and 2021 and other members of his family were transferred to the UK because of their work with the British.
He texted his family member's British High Commission (BHC) officer in March 2022, seven months after the fall of Kabul, asking for updates on whether he was fit to come to the UK as well. He had already applied to come to Britain under the Afghan Movement and Political Assistance (Arap) scheme, which deals with Afghans working with British forces.
In messages that appear by The Independent, the caseworker responded by asking if she had a visa to travel from Afghanistan and, when she said she did, said, “Let me know when you plan to travel.” Mr Nasery arranged an hour to cross the border into Pakistan, informed the official and was picked up by a BHC car and driven to a UK-sponsored hotel in Islamabad.
Mr Nasery stayed at the hotel for 19 months, with his wife and four children joining him a few months later. He was even given a UK visa by the Home Office in May 2022, which has now been struck off, with a big red cross. Afghan families are meant to travel to Pakistani hotels and approved visas only after their eligibility for resettlement programs has been approved.
His application for Arap was rejected in January this year, but he was allowed to stay in the hotel with his family while the decision was reviewed. In May this year, he was told his appeal for resettlement had been rejected because he had not worked alongside a UK government department or made a meaningful contribution to UK military objectives in Afghanistan.
He then applied to the UN refugee programme, hoping to be referred to the UK Home Office for resettlement, but has yet to receive his second stage interview.
However, in an eviction letter sent earlier this month, confirming the withdrawal of support, British High Commission officials wrote: “While in third countries, the UK Government may provide discretionary support, including housing, to applicants who have assessed as eligible for relocation to the UK under the Arap. By mistake, this support was provided for you.”
Ms Foy, Labor MP for Durham, who supported the case, said: “Mr Naseri's story is the latest in a disgraceful story of the Government's failure to stand by those Afghans who have supported Britain's efforts in Afghanistan.
“Since Mr. Nasery's case was brought to my attention by a constituent over a year ago, the government's responses to his case have been slow, uncoordinated and contradictory, leaving him and his family with an uncertain future ».
Mr Nasery said: “I was given 14 days to leave the hotel, find my own funds, accommodation and update my visa. I currently have no money to rent a house or feed my family. I am in a state of stress and frustration.”
In the families' letter of support, they said Mr Nasery, who speaks English, has supported many people at the hotel with translation, adding: “We know he has sold all his possessions to finance the passports of his wife and children and Pakistan. visas. He is currently homeless, destitute and without a visa to Pakistan.”
“If he and his family are taken out of the hotel in 14 days, he is in immediate danger of being deported by the Pakistani authorities because his visa expired a year ago.”
The Home Office and the Foreign Office have been contacted for comment.